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The most common pattern of nominal compounds is the fusion of two nouns. This does not result in a monolithic block. Rather, NN compounds can be divided into four sub-types.

Endocentric compounds are the most frequent type by far. The right-hand noun is the semantic head here, the first noun thus acting as modifier. For example, a wetterkraan water-tap is a tap, in this case one that delivers water. The right-hand noun is also the morphological head. It determines, for example, the choice of the plural ending, here -en since the noun kraan tap has kranen as its plural form. The stress of endocentric NN compounds is on the first member.

Exocentric NN compounds are formally similar, but they differ semantically. In an exocentric interpretation, a mûze-ear mouse-LK-ear is not a kind of ear, but it is a plant (which in a way resembles the form of the ears that mice tend to have). Apart from biological species, exocentric compounds often refer to persons, usually in a pejorative context.

The two constituent nouns of an endocentric compound have an unequal semantic weight, as the modifier noun on the left is subordinate to the right-hand head noun. In coordinate compounds, on the other hand, we see a semantic balance between both parts. The semantic head is therefore outside the compound; in this respect, coordinate compounds side with endocentric compounds. Hence, a skoalmaster-dichter teacher-poet is a person first and foremost. This person has the property that he is a poet and a schoolmaster; which of the two functions is most important is not implied by the form of the compound. The main stress of coordinate compounds is on the second member, in contrast to what we see in endocentric and exocentric NN compounds. In addition, the first member has a strong secondary stress.

Stress is also a striking factor in a fourth type of NN compounds, the so-called genitive compounds, which are rather typical of Frisian. Strong stress is located on the second member here. Semantically, such formations stand out by a definite-specific interpretation. For instance, in keamersdoar room-LK-door, the reference is the (only) door of the living room. This compound therefore refers to a unique object. A further property of genitive compounds is the frequent occurrence of a linking element, in this example -s-.


More details about the different types of NN compounds can be found by following the corresponding links:

For the stress pattern in NN compounds, see also in the section on Frisian phonology.

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